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Posts Tagged ‘Advertising

Weasel Words

How do you respond to weasel words? Do you find them useful, annoying, or deliberately misleading? (Click image for credit and source)

Ah, weasel words.

People often use weasel-speak in business to create the impression that they have said something important, meaningful and to the point when, in fact, their claims are ambiguous, their assertions little more than assumptions, and their statements vague and misleading.

When you hear weasel-speak, don’t you just want to raise your eyebrows in alarm and mutter What sesquipedalian tergiversation!

Here are a few common weasel phrases as examples:

Studies show …

The vast majority …

People say …

Critics claim …

There is evidence that …

Experience shows …

If you use such phrases, you can avoid weaseldom in one of two ways:

  • Substitute the exact figures, names or details in place of the weasel phrase in the body of the text.
  • Use footnotes or appendices in which you give exact figures, details, names, places, and so on.

Notice that the key idea in both suggestions is the same: Prefer language that is concrete, factual, specific and detailed. Substantiate all claims. Provide supporting evidence for all assertions. Avoid the clutter of bureaucratic phrases. Simpler language almost always communicates better.

You can also use what is known as the “general-concrete” pattern. In this method of writing, general and abstract statements are followed by a concrete case. Use specific examples, illustrations and detailed explanations to get your exact point across to your readers. Don’t just present concepts and sweeping generalities. Clarify each one with a concrete case, specific figures, or detailed examples to convey what you mean and help prevent weasel-speak from creeping into your writing.

Now let’s take the example weasel phrases above and remove the smoke screens. The following examples banish the empty weasel words and restore substance and specificity:

Two studies, the 2003 Hirt Report on Nicotine Use and the 2007 CDC Mortality Rates Report, show …

89 percent of respondents said …

People we interviewed agreed that …. Here is a list of their names and departments …

The movie critics of the following newspapers claim … (provide the names of the papers and critics)

The 26 supporting studies we cite in the appendix offer evidence that …

Based on the self-reported experience of the following 10 people … (give their names, describe each person’s experience in detail, and how each person’s experience supports your point)

Oh, it’s so easy, isn’t it? A little weasel here, another slithery weasel there, and before you know it, clear, substantive speech can find itself on the slippery slope to puffery, devoid of all real content.

To help you maintain sense and meaning in your writing, here is a list of handy resources I think you will enjoy:

Now it’s your turn: What weasel phrases do you dislike the most? How do you avoid using weasel words? Please share your thoughts in the comments – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Create Headlines That Work

Do your headlines and article titles sizzle? Do they grab readers’ attention? Do they make readers want to read the body copy?

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Headline, title, lead, opener – however you refer to it, the headline is the first impression your audience gets.

Whether read in a print piece or heard on radio or TV, the headline can spell the difference between success or failure: Is that first impression exciting and attention-grabbing? Does the headline offer useful information or news or promise readers they will gain something? Does the headline motivate the reader to keep reading, or make the listener continue to pay attention to what follows?

Whatever type of piece you are writing, the headline has to deliver, if it’s going to beat the competition and win people’s attention.

The secret that powers every successful headline is simple. The winners answer the most important question people ask themselves every time they read or hear a headline: What’s in it for me?

If a headline makes you interested in knowing more, it’s done its job, which is to:

  • Grab your attention.
  • Appeal to your self-interest.
  • Deliver the main message.
  • Persuade you to continue reading or listening.

Here are four sure-fire tips for writing headlines that get the job done.

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“Direct” Headline

This type of headline directly states what will follow. It clearly summarizes the message in the piece without using wordplay, hidden meanings, cleverness, or oblique references.

Select an important benefit that appeals to your readers’ self-interest, and then craft a statement that is bold, direct and perhaps even a little dramatic. For example:

Embedding Videos in Your PDF Documents

Get a Free Subscription to the Monthly Newsletter

Tank Tops – 25% Off Until Wednesday

Keep it short. Keep it simple. The “direct” headline gets right to the point.

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“How To” Headline

This one has been called “pure magic” in its ability to draw attention and compel people to continue reading or listening.

The “how to” headline dangles an irresistible promise before the reader: Listen to me. Pay attention to me. I can help you solve a problem. I can answer your question. I can help you learn something you want to know. For example:

How to Easily Save $300 a Month

How to Get More Sleep

How to Communicate Well

The “how to” says you are not alone. It relieves stress. It brings hope. This headline assures readers that others share their concern or have the same problem and, best of all, promises: You can fix it, solve it, learn it, overcome it—and here’s how.

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“Question” Headline

When you use the “question” headline, remember to focus on your audience. It’s all about their self-interest, so address your question to them. What fires up their curiosity? What fears or needs can your headline appeal to? For example:

What Won’t the Neighbors Tell You?

Which Foods Can Keep You Looking Young?

Is Your Air-Conditioner Costing You More Than It Should?

“Reason-Why” Headline

The “reason-why” headline is useful when you want to list the features of your product or service. It is also a good hook for pieces that offer advice or something to learn. For example:

Three Reasons Why You Should Get a College Degree

Six Ways of Chic Dressing on a Tight Budget

Five Steps to Looking Better and Living Longer

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These headline types are tested and proven—just look around and see what draws your attention. Ask your family, friends and colleagues. Ask businesspeople. Ask other writers. Do some research on what makes a headline effective.

Your challenge, as a writer, is to create headlines and titles that compel people to focus their attention on what you have to say and stay glued to every word.

Now it’s your turn: What sorts of headlines appeal to you? Writers, which headlines have worked well for you? Do you have any analytical insights into headline effectiveness? Please share your thoughts in the comments – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Writer Ideas

Marketing EBooks

Could digital marketing across multiple platforms represent a new business model for publishers? Could this model work for books on paper as well as ebooks?

Just a few years ago, who would have thought the subject of book publishing and marketing could have become as contentious and sometimes rancorous as it has these days?

Authors, agents, publishers and readers tussle over which is preferable: digital or traditional (print) publishing … and lately it seems that the trend is swinging toward a blend of both. But hold on to your hat! The blend itself is probably just another transition phase …

And do you even want to wade into the fray about book marketing?

Authors think it’s the publishers’ job. Agents and publishers insist that, for the most part and for most authors, it’s primarily the authors’ responsibility. And the audience … wait, do they even know you just published a book and are frantically trying to get their attention?

Yes, how exactly are you going to market your book to your target audience?

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Multi-Platform Marketing Campaign

Use various types of channels and media to build a multi-platform marketing campaign. (Click image for credit and source)

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A New Marketing Model?

How does the following approach to marketing your book grab you?  Let’s say you could reach out and connect with your audience in these ways:

Market your backlist books online.

Create frontlist fiction and non-fiction books digitally, and publish them as ebooks as well as online to various devices and as POD (print-on-demand) in selected retail outlets.

Team up with independent, traditional publishers to bring your ebooks to a larger audience through enhanced marketing, publicity and editorial strategies; these strategies would be implemented online via social media, blog postings, videos, photos, written pieces and interactive promotions.

Partner with agents and publishers who could do far more than just sell film and TV rights. Imagine partnering with someone who could actually develop selected ebooks for all screens (film, TV, web, mobile).

Collaborate with publishers who would build up your list of ebooks as well as other curated, complementary pieces, and then package and syndicate your digital publications as appropriate to other outlets, for example, social networks, blogs and mainstream media portals.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Here are two ways of thinking about digital marketing—before the sale (top) and after the sale (bottom).

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Digital Marketing on Top

Digital Marketing on Top: Use a multi-platform blended approach of digital and traditional media to move your customers from awareness to purchase. This example emphasizes digital media. (Click image for credit and source)

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Digital Marketing on Bottom

Digital Marketing on Bottom: Use a multi-platform blended approach of digital and traditional media to keep your customers loyal and committed to giving your company their repeat business. This example emphasizes digital media. (Click image for credit and source)

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If you want to learn more about how one publishing company is going about creating this type of new, digital multi-platform marketing model, take a peek at the website of Open Road Integrated Media (ORIM).

One purpose of this type of digital marketing model is to forge strong connections between authors and their audiences in ways that haven’t been possible before now.

Even though authors may not always meet and greet their fans in person, authors must still reach out and connect their ideas to … well … to other people and their ideas. In essence, you have to create mind links.

Is that sort of connection necessarily any less real if it’s done digitally instead of in person?

Could we be catching a glimpse of where book publishing must go if it is to survive as an industry?

Should traditional publishers consider retooling their operations around a similar model?

If you are one of the 80,000 independent publishers, would you consider partnering with a digital marketing company?

In fact, will traditional publishers even survive if their business model does not emphasize heavy-duty marketing, especially digital multi-platform marketing?

Now it’s your turn: What do you think? Is this model the book-marketing wave that authors, agents and publishers alike have to catch to survive and thrive? Please share your thoughts in the comments – thanks!  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Offline Strategies for Marketing Your Book

Authors, what sort of successful offline strategies for book promotion have you used?

In one of my online discussion groups, someone recently asked what sort of successful offline strategies for book promotion published authors have used. I’ve adapted part of my response for this post and hope that if you are a published author you’ll share one or two of your successful offline strategies for marketing your book.

When you start to develop the offline marketing plan for your book, your first questions should be:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Where are they likely to look for the kind of book I have written?

How you answer those questions will help determine which offline strategies you might consider. The following suggestions have worked for me as well as for some of my ghostwriting clients who asked for tips on marketing. Of course there are other strategies you can pursue, but these will get you started on developing a marketing plan for your book.

If you are publishing your book through a traditional publisher, the two of you will discuss who does what. (Most authors publish with smaller houses, which assume the author will be responsible for much of the marketing.) Just expect to handle a fair amount of the marketing and promotion yourself, unless you are a celebrity with wide name recognition or your book is so compelling that the big publishing houses are engaged in a frenzied bidding war to land your manuscript. (Compelling? It’s a code word that means “appears poised to make huge sales.”)

If you are self-publishing, then you are the publisher, of course, and in that case will especially want to pick and choose among those strategies that are likely to give you the most return (that is, book sales) for the time and effort invested.

Get all the reviews you can. Work with your publisher to have the book sent around to the most appropriate journals, magazines, digests, newspapers and other publications for review. See if your publisher will actually handle sending the review copies: this is a big job, and if your publisher is willing and already has a database full of contacts, be grateful. (And possibly consider sending your publisher a lovely thank-you note and fabulous flowers or delectable chocolates). If you are really lucky, your publisher will also track and assemble the review clippings, and send copies of them to you. Reviews serve many purposes; one of the most important is to help generate orders from bookstores, book clubs and other outlets.

Get out there and give interviews! Follow up on the press releases and review copies that have already been sent out by contacting local and national magazines, journals, newspapers, and radio and TV stations to set up interviews. Naturally, you’ll want to target those that are appropriate for your book, so when you make your pitch, be sure you know how your book is relevant to the publication’s or show’s audience—in other words, be able to tell them why they should interview you as opposed to another of the many authors who are also trying to snag an interview. Bonus: Since many publications and stations also have a website, your interview just might also appear online in written form or, in some cases, as a podcast.

Some nonfiction books lend themselves beautifully to seminars. If you decide that seminars make sense as part of your promotion strategy, consider structuring the fee to include a copy of your book for each participant.

Would speaking engagements work for your book? Many authors spread the word by speaking to professional associations, special-interest groups, conferences and other organizations. Tip: Ask if they can give your book a plug in their handouts and publicity (don’t assume they’ll just do it; be sure to ask and offer to supply the copy or advertising insert). Also, make sure you always have plenty of books on hand to sell on site; alternatively, you might arrange for a local bookstore to handle sales of your book at the event.

Before and after your book is published, consider writing articles about your book’s subject for relevant magazines, newspapers and journals. If you can manage a column, you’ll derive even more exposure. You might also approach selected publications and pitch excerpts from your book. The point is to get your book and your name in front of your audience, grab their attention, and motivate them to buy a copy. Bonus: Like other authors, you’ll probably find that the experience and the clips will have many future uses.

What about readings and book signings at bookstores, libraries, book clubs and similar venues? Although many writers dreamily imagine reading to large crowds of enraptured fans and signing books for long lines of adoring readers, in reality those events often seem to work best (that is, they produce the most traffic and sales) for well-known/celebrity writers or for topics that attract hordes of readers, no matter who the author is. Test the market for this type of event by talking with your local booksellers and librarians.

Whatever set of strategies you select to incorporate into your marketing plan—good luck!

Now it’s your turn: Have you used any of these strategies to market your book? What worked best for you? What other offline promotion efforts produced book sales for you? Take part in the conversation by leaving comments – thanks! Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Social Media and Static Documents

Have you thought about embedding live Twitter streams in your company's online documents? Do you think this could help you connect better with your customers?

Recently a colleague and I were talking about product promotion. As is so often the case in the world of business, the real issue was how to connect with customers on an ongoing basis and get them more involved with the product and the company. All successful companies are interested in that, because they want to encourage customer loyalty, get feedback on specific products and help build a word-of-mouth campaign about their products.

And what better way to accomplish those objectives than by engaging your customers in conversation?

This is where tweets come into the picture.

What if you decided to embed live Twitter streams in your company’s document pages and then invited your customers to become part of a lively exchange of opinions, feedback, suggestions and idea-sharing?

The more my colleague and I batted around ideas about this, the more I thought about the many ways a tweet stream could benefit everyone involved.

So I decided to poke around the Internet and see what I could find, since I was pretty certain that someone, somewhere, must have already experimented with such a useful tool.

As you might expect, there are companies out there which have already embedded live Twitter streams in their documents. I found a really nice example at ffeathers, a technical writer’s blog written by Sarah Maddox. In her post on embedding Twitter streams in documents, she describes how she integrated Twitter into some of her company’s online documentation.

Although Sarah’s post concerns technical documentation, what she has to say could be applied to all sorts of online business and technology documents: imagine brochures, books, white papers, instruction manuals, marketing documents … and the list goes on.

I think the fusion of dynamic social media like Twitter with more static pages like company documents could usher in a wholly new way of interacting with customers.

Why not offer your customers the immediate gratification of expressing themselves directly to you about your products and services? Why not take advantage of this tool to keep a closer eye on the marketplace? There are so many possibilities …

Now let’s talk: Do you use embedded live Twitter streams in your company’s online documents? Do you use other social media to keep in touch with your customers? If so, what are the results? We’re all ears, so please let us know! And thanks for leaving your comments. Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

 

Search Engine Optimization -- Does It Really Work?

Search Engine Optimization -- Does It Really Work? Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What does it take to improve the visibility of your web page or website in a search engine’s results list? Can you actually improve your search-engine ranking? And, most important, is that what really drives more visitors to your page or site?

A lot has been written about search engine optimization (SEO) and its value as an Internet marketing strategy.

Over the years, of course, search engines have caught on to so-called black-hat techniques, often referred to as spamdexing, which can get a page or site removed from a search engine’s index. So ethical website designers have learned to avoid bad practices like link farming, keyword stuffing and article spinning. And beyond the ethics question, to my knowledge there has never been any clear-cut evidence that such tricks ever really worked without any massaging of the results data.

Legitimate practices for optimizing a web page or site, the so-called white-hat techniques, include backlinking, removing barriers to the search engines’ indexing activities, cross-linking between a website’s pages and URL normalization.

Perhaps the most important technique of all, however, is to create worthwhile content that is truly relevant to your audience and also contains the keywords that your audience is most likely to use in their search queries. Place those keywords on pages, in title tags and in meta descriptions.

In my opinion, content wins, hands down, over other website-based methods of optimizing for search engines. Here’s why:

  • In order to create content that is relevant and useful for your audience, you have to know your audience. This requires research, analysis and thoughtful consideration, not black-hat tricks.
  • To develop keywords that make it easy for your target audience to find your web page or site, you must know how your audience thinks. You’ll probably have to dig a little to figure out which search terms your audience tends to use, run some tests and get feedback.
  • To make your web page or site compelling enough to draw visitors, your content has to be useful, interesting and well written. Great page design and graphics certainly help, but those alone won’t save your site if your visitors decide the content is not worth the trip.
  • Finally, to keep ‘em coming back for more, you must keep your site’s content fresh. So update and tweak as often as needed, which will depend on your company’s overall marketing objectives, the site’s purpose and your audience’s needs.

Gee, it’s beginning to sound as though you might need a marketing plan, isn’t it? Which is exactly where I think SEO belongs: as one part (and only one part) of your marketing plan.

What do you think? Do you use SEO? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas

Have you ever had to ask someone to do something and then motivate them to act?

Maybe you’re trying to get people to donate to your cause, or prompt a customer to pay a bill, or inspire your employees to adopt a procedure, or get a company to give you a job interview, or ask strangers to vote for you. All sorts of situations require us to write persuasively in order to get what we want.

Swaying someone’s mind can be hard work, as we all know. So here are some tips for a better shot at achieving your goals:

What Is Your Purpose?

Before you begin the first draft, decide: What is the purpose of the piece I am writing? What is it exactly that I want my readers to do?

Be very specific in your answer, because your stated purpose becomes the focus for every detail, statistic, set of results, observation, fact, argument and data point you will include. Everything must support your purpose.

Who Is Your Audience?

To persuade people, you must know who they are, so that you can find a point of agreement where they can say “oh yeah, that’s true,” or “that’s right,” and get on board with you.

This means you need to identify who your audience is. Are they individuals you know? Consumers? Retailers? Strangers? Companies in a particular industry? People who have a certain type of job? Members who belong to a specific organization? People in a certain age group?

Research your audience as much as possible. Get all the demographic data you can. And then be prepared to make some general assumptions as well.

What Does Your Audience Care About?

Once you know who your audience is, you should be able to define the kinds of arguments they will respond to. This will help you determine whether to lean toward the logical or the emotional.

You also need to define the kinds of issues they care about. What moves your audience? Where do their interests lie? What are their touchpoints, those areas where they feel they have some skin in the game?

When in doubt, paint the issues with a broad brushstroke, so you include as many people as possible.

What Tone Works?

The tone you use in writing reveals your attitudes toward your subject and your audience. The right tone is absolutely critical. Control tone, or risk losing your audience.

In general, a positive tone is more persuasive than a negative, sarcastic, humorous or angry one. So write positively, and express confidence and hope, warmth and cheer. If you can do that, and make your readers feel empowered and good about themselves, you will write persuasively.

What other techniques can you think of to make your writing more persuasive?  Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas


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